Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Backstreets #91

Backstreets #91
Last year I was asked by Chris Phillips, editor of the Backstreets magazine and website, to do a write-up of the eight Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's shows I saw in Oz. He recently contacted me to say the issue had finally been printed and offered to send me a complimentary copy. I was naturally delighted.

Late this afternoon I got home from a disheartening animal rescue just as dusk was settling on another balmy summer day in Melbourne. I'd dropped Aradhna at the airport early this morning (she's in New Zealand for a work sales gathering that will last 6 days) so I was prepared for a bachelor's night with Theo and Jasper. Checked the mailbox. In it sat a white envelope with an 'AIR MAIL' stamp across the top. My copy of Backstreets #91.

This night wasn't going to suck, after all.

The magazine's come a long way since Jeff Stefanick and I pored over issues covering the releases of 'Nebraska' and 'Born in the USA' and Springsteen sightings and the latest bootlegs. We marveled over the sombre fanaticism of magazine creator Charles Cross and searched for clues about Springsteen's next move. Backstreets always aspired to higher heights than other rock fanzines and Cross was the reason, though his zealotry may have made Springsteen's camp wary. The internet came along and Chris assumed the helm and Backstreets flourished as a source of immediately updated information. After years of being kept at arm's length the website's grew closer to Springsteen's sprawling, spinning universe and now offers exclusive interviews and release info. It's the go-to source for not only morning-after setlists but well-written reviews and insight into Springsteen's music and the people, places, forces and utter mysteries of the universe that have made a gangly kid from Freehold the greatest rock and roll showman on the planet.

Yet holding the magazine in my hands brought back the rituals of youth, when a new Backstreets demanded time alone on a beach or in a backyard or sitting in a car with a bag of Burger King. As I wrote to Chris in a thank you email, I'm sure those on the web-side of the business believe the website should stand alone without a print version. The way I see it, even the briefest encounter with Backstreets #91 is enough to convince naysayers that 'content' doesn't begin to describe the treasures within its glossy covers.

My piece in Backstreets #91
I was humbled to find the piece I wrote prominently placed within an interview by Chris with Tom Morello. I'd just been listening to Rage Against the Machine's first album in my car before and after today's animal rescue so Morello's genius was fresh on my mind. To see it laid out amidst the thoughts and words of a legendary guitarist, especially considering the wealth of material this issue needed to address, was satisfying, a feeling I wasn't expecting after tending to another beautiful, tough, but in the end doomed animal. 

The glory of Backstreets #91, however, is its 65-page tribute to Clarence Clemons, who passed away in 2011. I sat on my balcony with a Cooper's Green and devoured every word, just like in days of old.

I ended my email by thanking Chris for 'giving this faraway tramp something to smile and shed a tear about tonight'. The magazine will provide entertaining and informative company during my 3.5 hour flight to Perth tomorrow, and I'll share it with the Springsteen fans I'm staying with as we all see shows 2 and 3 of the Perth run on Friday and Saturday nights. Chris has asked me to cover those two shows for

This train keeps a' rollin' ....................

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